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Firms start rerouting vessels as ship blocking Suez Canal could take weeks to free

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
A handout picture released by the Suez Canal Authority on March 24, 2021 shows a part of the Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given (Evergreen), a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-) long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. - A giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal after a gust of wind blew it off course, the vessel's operator said on March 24, 2021, bringing marine traffic to a halt along one of the world's busiest trade routes. (Photo by Suez Canal Authority/Handout/AFP via Getty Images)
Ever Given (Evergreen), a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-) long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. Photo: Suez Canal Authority/Handout/AFP via Getty Images

Global companies have begun rerouting cargo away from the Suez Canal as the grounded Ever Given ship blocking the route is estimated to take weeks to free up.

On Friday, seven tankers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG) were diverted as the crisis enters a fourth day. Data intelligence firm Kpler said that three of the tankers were being diverted towards the longer route around Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope.

The majority of the diverted tankers, which were originally destined for Suez canal were now headed elsewhere, according to Kpler. "A total of 16 LNG vessels’ planned transit via the Suez Canal will be affected if the congestion persists until the end of this week," Kpler analyst Rebecca Chia said.

She added: "There will be considerable delays in the loading schedule at Ras Laffan for the start of April due to the congestion."

The 400-metre Panama-flagged Ever Given ship has been stuck in the Suez since Tuesday morning after it ran out of power, this has meant that more than 200 vessels have been tailing back from the Suez Canal.

The traffic-jam will have severe repercussions on global trade, bringing 13% of the world’s trade to a halt. According to shipping data the 200,000-tonne ship, which is capable of carrying 20,000 containers — is holding up an estimated £9.6bn ($13.3bn) of goods each day.

The ship is blocking the path of other vessels travelling in both directions across the Suez. Data from shipping expert Lloyd's List says that over 160 vessels are waiting at either end of the canal, including 41 bulk carriers and 24 crude tankers.

While it is unclear how long it will take to move the ship, some experts have said it could be done over the next few days while others have warned it could take weeks due to bad weather.

WATCH: Suez Canal could be blocked until next week with potential delivery delays to UK

READ MORE: What Suez Canal blockage could mean for global trade

The Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest waterways, is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

"Even the slightest delay in traffic can result in congestion and disturb the delivery of goods and commodities on both sides," according to S&P Global Platts.

Built in 1869, the Suez Canal is used by around 50 vessels per day, according to Panjiva, the supply chain research unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. Container ships accounted for 52.7% of the tonnage in 2019 transiting the canal including shipments from Asia to Europe and the US east coast as well as vice-versa.

It also said 19,000 ships pass through the canal every year.

The canal has had to contend with ever larger container vessels using the average tonnage per container ship reaching 119,000 tonnes in the 12 months to 28 February, 2020 from 93,500 in 2015, according to Panjiva.

Launched in 2018, the Ever Given, owned by Japanese firm Shoei Kisen Kaisha, is chartered by Taiwan-based Evergreen Marine. German firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) is responsible for its day-to-day operational running.

Brent futures (BZ=F) rose 2.2% to $63.29 on Friday morning, while Crude oil (CL=F) was up 2.7% to $60.13 per barrel.

Oil prices crashed 6% earlier in the week on Tuesday as the crisis began and amid fears that the COVID-19 third wave could lead to oversupply in the market.

Chart: Yahoo Finance
Chart: Yahoo Finance